Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What’s Up With the Fourth?

By Sandra McDow
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What’s Up With the Fourth?

. . . We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Hmm. What’s all this? I really like the pursuit of happiness notion.
I think that’s the idea behind the “fun, whimsical, low-tech la de da Parade at Noon in Yachats.”  Folks who attend that celebration can chase after great food, games, entertainment and live music and evening fireworks. Sounds like they plan to pursue happiness in a big way this year.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Wow. That’s heavy. Cold. Sounds almost subversive. The “Fourth” is a holiday, for criminy sakes. Seems like whoever wrote that must be “hung up” on human rights, or politics, stuff like that. Not me.

On the Fourth, I’m going to Portland and relax on the “grassy banks of the beautiful Willamette River, and while viewing the glacial peaks of Mt. Hood and the stunning Portland skyline, listen to the best blues music in the world.” That’s what I call a real Independence Day celebration.

 Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

Hey. Are they saying that we just put up with and ignore the bad stuff, like we’re stupid or something? Hey. What’s with that? We don’t. Like, the Blues Festival in Portland helps the food bank—they feed the poor and all. We don’t ignore the really bad stuff . . . do we?


But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Really heavy. Throw stuff off and provide new “guards?” I wonder if that’s like when Albany discontinued the Timber Carnival on the Fourth—like, they threw it off, and did something different. It was, after all, obsolete. It always had a bunch of redneck loggers who tried to outdo one another in events like log-rolling, axe-throwing, climbing trees—you know—sawing, chopping and climbing. Of course they had parades, and princesses, and hot-dogs, too. But they tossed that out in 2000.  Nobody does that stuff anymore. Who wants to watch?

Now, in Albany, you can celebrate the Fourth at Montieth Riverpark with a picnic or vendor food and enjoy diverse, quality entertainment. Looks like that means music, mostly. Well, you know . . . everything changes. They probably do have hot dogs and fireworks, though.

Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States . . .
(In Congress, July 4, 1776, The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America)


Well, speaking of injuries, and absolute tyranny over something, you should scope out Fourth of July rodeo in St. Paul, Oregon. They have lots of action there. Injuries? Oh, yeah. Absolute tyranny? Not so much. Mostly the bulls and broncos avoid being tyrannized by inflicting the injuries. The crowds love it. I think they have hot dogs, too. And fireworks. You can’t have a proper Fourth of July without hot dogs.

So, thinking about all this, I got curious. How did all this fun get started? I mean, everyone knows about the Declaration of Independence, and the ensuing war, and one nation under God, and Betsy Ross, and so on. But what’s with the parades, food and fireworks? Well . . . just check this out:

Yesterday the 4th of July, being the Anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America, was celebrated in this city with demonstration of joy and festivity. About noon all the armed ships and gallies in the river were drawn up before the city, dressed in the gayest manner, with the colours of the United States and streamers displayed. At one o'clock, the yards being properly manned, they began the celebration of the day by a discharge of thirteen cannon from each of the ships, and one from each of the thirteen gallies, in honour of the Thirteen United States. In the afternoon an elegant dinner was prepared for Congress, to which were invited the President and Supreme Executive Council, and Speaker of the Assembly of this State, the General Officers and Colonels of the army, and strangers of eminence, and the members of the several Continental Boards in town. The Hessian band of music taken in Trenton the 26th of December last, attended and heightened the festivity with some fine performances suited to the joyous occasion, while a corps of British deserters, taken into the service of the continent by the State of Georgia, being drawn up before the door, filled up the intervals with feux de joie. After dinner a number of toasts were drank, all breaking independence, and a generous love of liberty, and commemorating the memories of those brave and worthy patriots who gallantly exposed their lives, and fell gloriously in defence [sic] of freedom and the righteous cause of their country. Each toasts was followed by a discharge of artillery and small arms, and a suitable piece of music by the Hessian band. The glorious fourth of July was reiterated three times accompanied with triple discharges of cannon and small arms, and loud huzzas that resounded from street to street through the city. Towards evening several troops of horse, a corps of artillery, and a brigade of North Carolina forces, which was in town on its way to join the grand army, were drawn up in Second street and reviewed by Congress and the General Officers. The evening was closed with the ringing of bells, and at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks, which began and concluded with thirteen rockets on the commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated. Every thing was conducted with the greatest order and decorum, and the face of joy and gladness was universal. Thus may the 4th of July, that glorious and ever memorable day, be celebrated through America, by the sons of freedom, from age to age till time shall be no more. Amen, and amen (Virginia Gazette, 18 July 1777).

Now, I get it.




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